tv The Communicators CSPAN July 18, 2011 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
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>> getting in the one the least partisans parts of washington, d.c. that you can find. the party label doesn't always moon a whole lot. i've been there the second longest out of the commissioners. i've been there a little over five years. that gives you institutional memory to work with. i think since commissioner baker left, i'm trying to think if i casted the vote. i think i have. i don't remember what it was.
>> has there been movement for another republican commissioner? >> i don't know. all i know is what i've read in the newspapers. i understand there maybe on the democratic side -- >> to replace mr. copps? >> correct. those wow paired up so that it's easier for them to travel through the confirmation process. but i don't have any sort of firsthand knowledge. one would hope if that's going to happen, it would happen this fall. >> let's talk about the issues that the fcc and the congress and the country is looking at right now. if we could begin with the security of cell phones. given what's happened in the uk right now, both the chairman of the homeland security committee here in the states, peter king, and jay rockefeller, commerce committee chair have called for an investigation of in the phone hacking. if it comes over, will they look
at the security of cell phone? >> if there is wiretapping my anybody for any reason, it's a criminal matter. law enforcement would be the best to be tasked with looking into it. congress can do it's own investigation as well. if there's a violation of an fcc rule, then we should look at it right now. we don't have any evidence of any wrongdoing by anybody, regarding recent headlines, that i know of. should evidence be presented after the jurisdiction, certainly we should examine it. >> do you agree with the congress? >> i subscribe to the notion that congress tells me what to do. i don't tell congress what to do. if there was members of congress that want an investigation, they are free to conduct their own. the commission should abide by it's own processes. if there's evidence of wrongdoing by anybody, any company, for anything, we should look at it in due course. >> amy schatz? >> another issue that the fcc
tackled this week was scramming. -- cramming. which is when an item showed up on your phone bill and you didn't authorize it. cramming has been illegal for a long time. yet the senate came out with a report this week that suggest that this is the widespread and something that's effecting consumers a lot. why do you think this is still going on when the fcc already has fuels and what does the fcc need to do about it? >> certainly, they need to enforce the existing rules that we have on the books and have had since the 1990s. we did just launch a notice of proposed rulemaking earlier, and for my father-in-law who's watching at home. we've put up for comment some ideas what if anything more we need to do. this will open up the record if consumer advocacy and consumers themselves and industry and anybody that wants to comment can comment on whether or not the fcc needs to do more. and give us facts. i'd like to see facts.
what is the current state of the market, what is exactly going on? the fcc gets about 2,000 to 3,000 cramming complaints per year. and that is as you said, unauthorized charges appearing on your phone bill, either by third parties or phone companies. and it is a growing matter. we are hearing a growing course in congress to look into it and pass through legislation. let's take a look. let's see how bad this is. and see if maybe we just need to enforce our own rules. >> one the things though, when the fcc took action this week on an empty -- a notice. you were looking at transparency issues. one the major issues is about whether to expand not just from the landline, but to wireless and internet phones. where do you stand on that? >> well, again, let's see what the facts tell us. and if there's something we need to do, let's look at the statutory jurisdiction, let's look at the law as it was written by congress to see what authority we have to do something in that regard, and go
from there. >> commissioner mcdowell, the fcc this week forwarded rules to the omb toward net neutrality to codify net neutrality. where do you stand? omb being the office of management and budget. the white house department. there's a whole review called the paper reduction act, the pra, not to be confused with the professional radio association. they review what the effect of our rules might be on businesses of all kind. how much paper work is this producing? by the fcc own estimate, the net neutrality rules against, which i dissented last december 21st, will generate three times more paperwork than the fcc estimated. and that number seems to be going up. this is just tier 1, i think, of the undiscerneddeddeddeddeddeddd
consequences. the review that has been happened that required more notice and public comment. the last round of that or the latest round of that is commencing now. so it could be those rules or those net neutrality rules don't become effective maybe until mid to late october. and then they could be appealed. they can't be appealed by the court or overturned by the senate under statute. and so they become -- >> do you forsee them being appealed? >> i think they will definitely be appealed. some parties try to get appealed before they became effective. we are told by the court to bait until they are effective. i think there's better than average chance the rule can be stayed or frozen in court. i think they could calm
irreputable harm. better than average isn't better. but i think it's better than average. >> all of the rules, they rarely take six months. this seems to be abnormally delayed. do you ask what the heck happened there? >> it is abnormally delayed. i'm not sure. there was sort of artful language that was not included in the order. again, i dissented, i didn't try to put it in the order. we saw that coming. that's part of the issue is how the actual order was written and prevented the fcc from public -- publishing the rules right away. it is odd. it's created a lot of uncertainty. as i've called for before, under the president's executive order of late for agencies to reduce
the amount of unneeded legislation, i think there should be first. >> i can't believe i'm going to say these words. >> okay. >> let's talk about universal service reform. what's the status? it's what the commission has been working on since the broadband report came out. there was speculation by the german office it would be out before the leaves fell, and change the, earlier, they said that's that's not going to happen. now it's in the final stretch. what's going on? >> could be in the southern hemisphere. >> how? >> it's for a subsidy program that subsidized rural areas and other high cost for low income and schools and libraries. it's just a big umbrella. i've been pushing for reform for five years. i've come close to resolving many issues on universal service in a related area called carrier
compensation. which is phone companies exchanging money for terminating traffic on each other's network. we had two republicans on board for many reforms, including myself and commissioner copps. i think there's a lot of room for bipartisan agreement. i get concerned when i see dates continue to slip away. my concern is that we might get two new commissioners on the commission this fall. republican and democrat. i'd like to see us get an order done before that happens. because that could be used as an excuse for further day, then we are slipping into an selection year, there's going to be perhaps more pressure from congress. we've been charted by congress, a section called 284 to get it done. it's been 14 years or so since the commission has really put
out a comprehensive order on this. what we are looking at is the distribution side of the universal service. i want to make sure we don't see an increase in the side of the funds. telecommunications has made it more efficient and we have seen a decrease. we should be a reduction in the size of the fund. we're not getting contributions, which is the taxing side of this animal. and we're only focusing right now on the distribution side. spending time. i think it should have been done together. i would like to see as quickly as possible a notice of proposed rulemaking on the taxes or contribution side of the universal service. >> do you think you can at least get the distribution side done before new members are nominated? >> i'm optimistic. i have expressed these exact concerns to chairman genachowski. i don't want to speak for him, i'm sure he doesn't want me to
speak for him as well. he shares the sense of urgency. any idea that has been thought up during universal service or compensation, has fully briefed over the past 14 years. the staff has already thought of and written i'm sure many drafts and orders. it's probably a matter of cutting and pasting word documents together which we can probably get done by midnight tonight if we really put our minds to it. i understand that there are new ideas that industry wants to float and get those out for public comment as quickly as possible. but i'd like to see it done no later than our october meeting. if we end up with new commissioners by then, which would be quick, i hope it's not used an excuse. >> why no action on the funding side? >> i don't know. i've been calling for this. this should have been presence -- comprehensively. the reason is there isn't the broadband, no fun tended, within the fcc to get it done. that was not the case in 2008. we were able to do distribution and contribution in the cared
compensation all at the same time. it's all related. there are issues that touch one or another and analogy i've used to the point where it's needed. it's like fixing a watch. you don't tinker with one component without affecting all of the other moving parts. that's why you have to do it all at the same time. >> from "communications daily." house considering usf to close deficit. they are thinking about using the universal service fund to help pay down the deficit industry officials told majority leader eric canton circulated a slide that contain cuts and savings proposed in talks with vice president joe biden, including between $20 billion and $25 billion end quote spectrum usf savings and come from spectrum auctions. >> right. that's a lot of concepts there. i haven't been briefed by
members of congress on this. again, congress tells us what to do, not the other way around. there are a lot of other issues about universal service, perhaps several hundred million in incorrect payments over the years and $ 900 million surplus, some accounts don't like it call it a surplus. i don't know what leader cantor is thinking in which portion of the fund might be used for that. obvious we have statutory obligation of the mission to help subsidize from low income people as well. >> amy schatz. >> if they are talking about using usf for reduction, is that for companies to currently get this, or will you see a rise in the contribution. the folks are paying this every month in the phone bill might have to start paying more? >> i haven't seen any of the living in capitol hill regarding
this. i don't want to speak for them. one the summaries i read said they do not want an increase in the tax rate. i don't know what they are thinking. those questions are probably better addressed to leader cantor. >> two bills have come before the house now. i'm sorry, before the congress. senator rockefeller and senator hutchinson which has now been introduced on the house side by a couple of house democratics and now the republicans have put out the broad outline of their spectrum auction bill. do you lean towards one or the other? one approach or the other? >> well, again, congress tells me what to do. i don't say that enough times. i don't tell them what to do. what i've said on the topic, should there be incentive auctions, some sort of provision to give broadcasters an incentive to relinquish their
spectrum, it should be voluntary. is going to be like the digital tv transition all over again. there will be broadcasters who won't participate in the auction but who will occur cost. we want to make sure unless congress is changing it's priority and no longer believe in free over-the-air broadcasting, which i don't believe is the case, we need to take it into account. having said that, we need more spectrum in the marketplace. beyond that, i'll let congress fill in the details. >> nab has endorsed senator rockefeller and the house republicans plan. they also dedicate d block to emergency communications. are you supportive of dedicates d block to emergency communications? >> so the d block was about ten
megahertz slice of prime real estate in the spectrum world that congress has been looking to somehow use for public safety. with the dtv act, the digital television act of 2005, we have an obligation as the law currently stands to auction off d block. i voted in '07 for public/private partnership will be right next to the 20 megahertz block that congress set aside for public safety in 1997. well before 9/11. first of all, 24 megahertz is like several blocks of manhattan in real estate. it's very desirable, spectrums go a long distance that carry data. that's a tremendous amount. with the fcc busting their butts a decade or go, many public safety entities decided to use 10, almost half for narrow band
voice and have been locked into that technology. that's like building a one-story gas station in lower manhattan. it's not the highest use of that land. gas stations are important. instead of rebuilding the gas station and tearing it down to build a skyscraper, they want the next most adjacent piece of land. public safety all in all has about 97 megahertz. not all are created frequently, but that's a lot for two million users. that's a ton. when you start to drill down, i can say this, i'm not an elected official, i don't have to -- i don't have to worry about the political aspect of this. when you drill down, public safety is looking for more money. they need money to have a nationwide public safety network. and i think that's the direction that we ought tog ho -- to go in. in the meantime, they have granted 20 waivers. new york, washington, a lot of smaller towns where they can bill out their own edge nap --
regional networks. so it's complicated. more spectrum is not necessarily the answer. i think a new technology in all ip world, all internet protocol world using the 24 megahertz block to it's highest and best would be the best for public safety and for the american people. >> this is c-span's "communicators" program, robert mcdowell, the federal commissioner and amy schatz is our guest reporter. >> commissioner mcdowell, part of the republican spectrum bill deals with the issue of white spaces. in the bill, they suggest that all of the unlicensed spectrums should be auctioned off. which seems to suggest the white spaces issue which have been kicking around for the fcc the last few years might be dead. where do you stand? do you think they should
continue? >> i've been a strong proponent of unlicensed use. where the unused tv channels in a particular area. again, it's the same kind of spectrum that we were just talking about for public safety. it's powerful. called wi-fi on steroids, for instance. the possible consumers benefits are fantastic. and so -- and like wi-fi, you may remember, i think i've said this before. it's almost as if on friday, nobody heard of wi-fi. by monday, everyone had it. the same can be true of our unlicensed here. the point being when it's unlicensed, that really stimulates the quick build out and a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs can get involved very, very quickly. so i do have a concern. i think it's a -- just as a pragmatic concern. i think it's very difficult to license white spaces especially in large metropolitan areas because of the contour of where the unlicensed space is.
it makes it's difficult to license as a pragmatic matter. maybe in rural areas where there are more white spaces and more unused channels, that's easier to do. but again congress tells me what to do. i don't tell congress what to do. >> so would you -- if the -- if they asked you and said this is a draft that they are hoping for feedback on all sides. would you suggest perhaps there would be some kind of cart out for white spaces? >> i think so. i think that's exactly what i would advise. i think it adds a positive and constructive chaos to the marketplace. i think it is an escape valve for those who are concerned about the -- you know, concentration on the marketplace, or those who are components of net neutrality rules instead of having regulations. that's have the chaotic part of the marketplace that can be an escape valve for consumers and work around if there is any anti-competitive conduct. then you have the wonder and
unlicensed segment of the economy. we can't even imagine what kind of innovations might come over the horizon. that's exciting. >> 15th annual recently came out from the fcc. you were quoted as saying competition is robust. i've misquoted you, go ahead and tell me if i have. would you see at&t bringing down one a major carrier in the merger? >> i don't want to comment on the merger. that is certainly something that the government agency needs to look at very carefully. the department of justice does the antitrust review. my hope is that the recent departure of the assistant attorney general, christine barney, does not delay review. i think we need to give it a full, thorough, and expeditious
review. one member of the team showed not slow us down. these are all legitimate questions to ask. we'll go from there. >> can you give us the status of the review? >> at the commission, it's still under review. this summer was a key time for the building up of a record, especial lit department of justice, and i think if we start to see late summer come around and department of justice hasn't said it would file a suit to block it, for instance, i think that might mean then we're talking about what kind of conditions should be placed on the merger. the department of justice would be the ones to require. >> do you see it all, the glaad issue, gay and lee -- lesbian alliance resigning? they endorsed the merger because they got money from at&t. do you see that murkying it?
>> our job is to look at the fact and how they pertain to the existing law. one interest group being happy or unhappy with it doesn't really affect my analysis of it. it's a matter of what does the marketplace look like. >> amy schatz? >> do you think the merger can get done? >> absolutely. it's my hope before year end. they think i application is filed in late february or march. you probably know better than i. we should be able to get it done in the time frame. this is large and complicated. but i see no reason why the fcc can't get this done by the end of the year. >> okay. so a separate issue involving wireless competition. it involves a company called bite squared, which is tried to build a new wireless across the country. they got an approval from the fcc earlier to use satellite air waves they had purchased and used to build a ground-based network. they've had a lot of concern that has been come up in the
gps, because the air waves are close. they are suggesting that this is going to cause a lot of interference and because of the fcc, gps devices across the country are going to be get knocked out. do you think this is something that the full fcc should look at? >> right now i want to make sure the scientist and engineers look at it. i want to make sure it's not a political decision. this is how i advocated the white spaces when the broadcasters were concerned about use of those air waves. let's give it the most objective report that we can that's going to happen as a result of this. as you point out, this has not risen to the level of the commissioners, the four of us. i think it's right where it should be. career public servants examine this and public servants with lots of engineering numbers -- engineering initials after their name. they are look at a plan d. which is to use frequencies that are lower down or further away from those gps frequencies.
we've had a lot of government agencies get involved. defense related homeland security related that are concerned about potential harmful interference of the gps. we certainly don't want any of that to be a remote possibility. hopefully there's a win/win situation here. and, you know, we should take our time, not feel rushed, and look for the best possible solution. >> we have about three minutes left. if you have other topics that you wanted to discuss. >> sure, let's talk about media ownership. recently the third circuit sent back to the agency your rules on the cross ownership on the administrations based on your concerns that the fcc hasn't given the public enough time to comment. do you think the fcc fumbled the ball on that? >> according to the third circuit, yes, we did. the concern there was that publishing the outline of proposed rules in the "new york times" three weeks before a vote.
>> should have published before. >> i don't think we got any revenue. they should have paid us. that is not adequate public notice for notice and comment purposes under the administrative procedures act. that's probably the right call. i was concerned about that at the time. i did think that the record contained substantial information that allowed us to go forward with the vote. which is one reason that i voted for what i think is a unique, mild, almost aesthetic relaxation of a newspaper. the third circuit itself, and another decision pretty much gave the fcc almost a green light to go forward an e -- elimination of the ban. i think it's archaic. we don't bar radio stations from owning other web site. i think the ban has caused a reduction in voices in traditional media and not encouraged diversity as it was intended. >> do any of your democratic
colleagues at the fcc agree with you? or as you are moving forward with the review, it's dead and not going to be proposed? >> i don't know. i don't -- i cowant to speak for them. i know they don't want me to speak for them. i would hope they would look at the reality of the marketplace and the media marketplace is incredibly competitive and dynamic. all of us as consumers are a wash in data information for multiple outlets and countless numbers of portals. >> finally, the supreme court is going to be taking up the fcc inden sen si regulations and whether you have some control over that. do you have any sort of predictions on how this is going to go? >> i don't have a prediction. we will hopefully get a decision -- the term ends july 4th or thereabout. i've been supportive of the appeal to get guidance from the court. as you know, i'm a strong defender of the first amendment for the same time. my third week on the job, i intended the bill signing ceremony.
where a large majority of congress voted to strengthen the fines any way for inden -- inden sen si. we need guidance from the court. i'm glad to see they have started to dismiss some complaints about cable and satellite and dismiss those that are easily dismissible for the broadcast after 10 p.m. we have a backlog filled of 1 hundredth -- 1.4 million complaints. which we might not get to. >> we are out of time. robert mcdowell, thank you for being on "the communicators" amy schatz, you too. >> thank you. >> tonight a brookings institution forum on congressional redistrictinging